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Have You Had Your Whooping Cough Booster Shot?

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July 28, 2010

As the number of whooping cough (pertussis) cases continues to increase in San Diego, officials from the County Health and Human Services Agency are encouraging everyone to get the proper vaccinations for the disease.

San Diego County has 266 cases of pertussis reported so far in 2010, with 15 infants hospitalized due to the disease. That number far surpasses last year’s total of 143 and is on course to break the record of 371 cases in 2005.  (This week's new cases listed below.)

“We’re seeing a level of pertussis we haven’t seen in the last five years,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S. Ed., Deputy County Public Health Officer. “Pertussis cases seem to surge every five years or so, but this spike is raising concerns and has reached epidemic levels statewide. We are well on our way to reach our highest totals in decades here in San Diego County.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get five doses of DTaP vaccine, one dose at 2 mo., 4 mo., 6 mo., 15-18 mo., and 4-6 years of age. Routine immunization with a Tdap booster is for adolescents at 11 to 12 years old. All older children and adults should receive a one-time dose of Tdap, given in place of a “tetanus booster,” which should be administered every 10 years.  

In response to the epidemic, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has expanded the CDC age range for Tdap vaccination to people 7 to 11 years of age and individuals older than 64 years of age. Children 7 to 11 years of age should receive a Tdap vaccine whenever vaccination against tetanus, diphtheria, or pertussis is indicated. In addition to the regular schedule of childhood and adult immunizations, the CDPH now recommends an adolescent/adult pertussis booster shot for all individuals seven and older who are not fully immunized, including those over 64 years of age; women of childbearing age, before, during (in the second or third trimester) or immediately after pregnancy; and people who have contact with pregnant women or infants.

Named for the "whoop" sound children and adults sometimes make when they try to breathe in during or after a severe coughing spell, whooping cough usually starts with flu-like symptoms, such as runny nose, sneezing, fever and a mild cough. These symptoms may be mild and brief, or last up to two weeks, but are often followed by severe coughing fits that may be associated with vomiting. Fever, if present, is usually mild.  It is treatable with antibiotics.

For more information about whooping cough, please call the HHSA Immunization Branch toll-free at (866) 358-2966, or visit the web site at

 This week’s new cases

  • A 5-month-old who was up-to-date on vaccinations and attends the Alta Vista Teen Parent Program Daycare Center in the Vista Unified School District. The last day of school was June 30.
  • A 4-year-old who was up-to-date on vaccinations and attends Project Head Start in Poway. 
  • A 4-year-old who was up-to-date on vaccinations and attends Bright Horizons Preschool in Del Mar. 
  • A 7-year-old who was up-to-date on vaccinations and attends Mount Helix Academy in La Mesa.  The student is attending summer school.
  • A 9-year-old who was up-to-date on vaccinations and attended the Rebel Youth Basketball Club in San Diego from June 28 – July 1.
  • A 19-year-old who was overdue for a booster shot and attends the Escondido Community School. Last day of school was July 15.

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